The global pandemic and the economic downturn have accelerated the transformation of the future of work to weeks, not years. Unfortunately, most leaders and their organizations’ workforce strategies are woefully unprepared for an accelerated future-of-work reality.
According to the Forrester Executive’s Guide To The Future Of Work, the coronavirus pandemic is an acute symptom of a larger set of factors that were already poised to alter the way work gets done. In fact, four “shocks” to enterprises — systemic business risk, robots and automation, a tsunami of employee data, and employee power and activism — were already changing the who, where, and how work gets done.
These four shocks do not exist in isolation. They can trigger and compound each other, creating new urgency in areas that businesses had not planned.
Given the current crisis, executives must establish a strategy that builds an adaptive workforce. That means executives will need to:
- Prioritize employee experience (EX) to build empathy and deepen engagement. The pandemic has forced executives to listen to employees and tune into their sentiment, workload, wellness, and communication. Done well, listening programs build empathy for what employees need to be fully engaged in their daily work and help align the organization’s resources to better supply those needs.
- Invest in modern human capital management (HCM) technologies to improve results. Per Forrester, 90% of employees are willing to let employers use data about them — but only if they benefit in some way. If earned, this trust dividend can pay off; companies that have it see 6% greater revenue growth on average.
- Explore the robotics quotient (RQ) to guide their approach to automation technologies. RQ measures the ability of individuals and organizations to adapt to, collaborate with, and drive business results from automation and AI technologies. Automation deployments fail because employees and organizations can’t effectively integrate the technology into business processes. The solution is investing in people, leadership, and organizational structures. Higher RQ also correlates to higher EX.
- Build human-centric culture to optimize how organizations sense and respond to shocks. The pandemic has made it clear that workers want leaders capable of providing human-centred solutions. Purpose-driven leaders can create an environment where employees can rapidly adapt to any of the four shocks as they continue to combine and affect organizations. Leaders at all levels of the organization need to work from a common set of values that support high performance.
Keith Johnston, VP and group director at Forrester, noted that while it’s odd to call anything good news right now, leaders should be relieved to know that the structure, process, and culture tools needed to address the future of work are not new and exist today.
“It’s just that executives need to employ these tools immediately. Forrester’s rapid self-assessment can help leaders assess their readiness to deploy these tools and detect areas where their workforce strategy and roadmap can be improved quickly, he concluded.”